Former freeway shootings suspect Leslie Merritt Jr. gets gun back; domestic violence charges dropped

Posted at 8:26 AM, Jan 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-30 13:59:19-05

Former freeway shootings suspect Leslie Merritt has been out of jail since April, but he is just now receiving his gun.

Sources tell ABC15 that Merritt recently received his gun after the judge ordered the Arizona Department of Public Safety to release it by January 31.

The judge initially denied the request to the former Phoenix freeway shootings suspect and it remained in evidence with DPS for months.

Merritt spent months behind bars, facing charges connected to a series of shootings along Phoenix-area freeways that caused Valley-wide panic.   

Merritt was released from jail in April after charges against him were dropped when a ballistic expert found the DPS crime lab had come to a faulty conclusion and noted the bullets from shootings couldn't be "excluded or identified" as having come from Merritt's gun.

Merritt Jr. filed a lawsuit alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and aiding and abetting torturous conduct.

Prosecutors and DPS officials both maintain that the case remains open and under investigation.

Merritt is still the main suspect in the DPS investigation.

DPS Director Frank Milstead said, "I believe we have enough evidence to develop probable cause to believe that (Merritt) is the correct suspect.”

Merritt's attorneys say they remain shocked at Milstead's comments.

All of the charges have been dropped against Merritt, but that does not mean DPS can't file charges again.

In addition to getting his gun back, sources tell ABC15 that all charges from Merritt's October arrest have been dropped. In October 2016, Merritt was accused of violating an order of protection.